By Max Klein, with Fish
Photography: Angelica Rubalcaba & Surj Gish
Rider: Max Klein
Back in 2015, Suzuki introduced the US market to a factory-produced streetfighter which they called the GSX-S750. I, being of the generation that likes to simplify things, referred to it simply as “the Gixxis.”
I didn’t get much seat time on the 2015 Gixxis (“In (GS)XS” – September 2015), but according to Editor Surj’s review, I did say that it would “make a good mount for a single-bike city dweller who rides it ‘round town but also does track days.” He called my assessment reasonable, but then went on to point out that the Gixxis would need some tweaking for the track part of it. He talked shit about the front brakes, the front suspension… hell, pretty much every part of the bike forward of his gut got nothing more than a “meh” from the guy, and he didn’t really sing the praises of the aft portion either.
It’s tough to blame him though, as by 2015 we were well into what he called the “post-FZ-09 world,” so the bar was set high, even if it’s not exactly a fair comparison. Comparing a larger, torquey triple to a smaller inline-four is never going to end well for the petite four-banger.
So here we are in the present day, and I’m faced with a similar conundrum. I literally parked a motorcycle built exclusively for fun, Aprilia’s Dorsoduro 900 (check out the story here if you missed it), and climbed aboard the new and improved GSX-S750, a motorcycle built, well, if you listen to me, for city riding and some track use maybe?
The Gixxis had its work cut out for it.
Fortunately, and presumably thanks to Surj’s candid feedback, Suzuki shit-canned the 2015’s whole front end in favor of slightly beefier 41mm fork tubes, which allowed fitment of proper Nissin four-piston monoblock calipers. Radial mounted, the big boy brakes are ready to put an extended index finger to Surj’s complaining lips whilst waving the middle finger on the other hand at everyone who called the old binders dated and dull.
Front brake feel is like a firm handshake, and even though we didn’t have the ABS equipped, $600 pricier Z version, I was very impressed with the stopping power of the twin 310mm discs. The single disc in the rear was sympathetic to my stopping needs: easy to modulate between responsible adult braking and my preferred childish skidding everywhere.
The beefier fork still only offers preload adjustment and the shock is equally lacking in customizability. Chassis feel is firm and sporty without being overly exciting, which is both a plus and a minus. On the positive side: turning into corners was almost effortless and the 465-pound (claimed wet) Gixxis held a line like those gladiators in 300. The downside is that getting the bike to transition requires a force just as powerful.
I did find that putting my weight a bit more forward made these transitions much easier, but that kinda defeats the purpose of an upright riding position.
Suzuki includes a low RPM assist feature which adds a bit of gas as you let the clutch out, making the bike damn near impossible to stall… unless you’re Fish, who somehow, miraculously, managed to kill it twice, and that was just in front of me.
Seriously, on flat ground you can just slowly let the clutch out without giving it any gas and roll away at like three MPH. Most of us, anyway.
The updated bike also gets thicker handlebars, different wheels, a full digital dash, and a restyled swingarm and bodywork. One needed update that must have fallen victim to the accountant’s scalpel is the headlight. My maiden voyage aboard the good ship Gixxis was through the Oakland hills at night, and due to lack of light projection I was limited to about half of my normal night pace on these very familiar roads. Even the brights were less than enlightening.
It seemed like the low beams were too low, the high beams too high, and they both had a lackluster spread to the sides.
The riding position is about the same as it was in 2015: a slightly-forward yet upright stance that is almost aggressive enough to make the bike perform at its best. Like I mentioned above, in order to achieve maximum flickability I need to put much of my weight over the front wheel, bonus points if I went all monkey-man. Around town the riding position is perfect, and despite there being zero wind protection it’s pretty decent on the freeway as well. The new bars are a nice touch both visually and functionally. Even at high RPMs there was minimal buzz through the grips.
Propelling the whole package forward is a massaged version of the old motor with an extra eight horsepower. Suzuki switched up the camshafts, added some crankcase ventilation holes, attached throttle bodies with the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) system, and improved fuel delivery with some fancy-schmancy ten-hole, long-nose fuel injectors to squeeze those extra ponies out of the 749cc four-banger. Obviously, they had to tweak the airbox a bit to deal with the bigger fuel flow and while they were in there they pumped up the intake noise for very pleasant sounds.
In a nutshell, power delivery is efficient as long as you aren’t afraid of keeping the loud stick twisted. When I kept the revs above 8k, the ride was invigorating. Below 8k, like most middleweight inline fours, the Gixxis is still fun but not all that inspiring.
The electronic package on the 750 includes three stages of traction control—four if you include off. Level three regulates tire spin for wet or otherwise crappy conditions. Level two is for when you are hungover or for when you loan the bike to your slightly ham-fisted buddy who doesn’t know how to switch modes. Level one is a good all-around setting, or if you are in full Captain Back-it-in mode, you can switch the whole thing off. The traction control settings also control just how much yutt you put into your ungh, but let’s be honest: power wheelies are few and far between on this machine.
All these improvements have a price. The OG (Original Gixxis) would set you back $7,999 for the base model, where the modern version grabs another $300 bucks from your wallet at $8,299. If you want ABS, the Z model will run you $8,999, but in addition to the ABS, you get blacked-out paint so it’s money well spent.
Again, I’m probably still jaded from the torquemaster Dodo 900, and again CityBike is comparing apples to apple pie à la mode. To make matters worse, we had Aprilia’s Shiver 900 at the same time as the Gixxis, which offers similar torque-induced grins, meaning that once again, we’re comparing a 750cc four-cylinder machine to a 900cc not-four-cylinder machine, and once again, we’re apparently surprised by the results.
What’s wrong with us? Nothing really, it’s just kinda bad timing. (We look forward to your letters expounding on what is actually wrong with us, of course.)
Like Surj with our first GSX-S, I’m not saying that I didn’t like the bike, but rather that if I’d had a month or six away from a purpose-built (ridiculously) fun bike, I probably would have been more successful with the whole “unbiased journalist” thing and had a much easier time singing the praises of the reworked GSX-S750.
As it stands, everything I said about the 2015 version remains true, and improved. The Gixxis would make a great one-bike solution for a city slicker lusting after a track day or two, and though he probably will anyway, I don’t think Editor Surj can realistically argue that much.
Fish: I’d Rather be Twinning
I joined Max in GSX-S land without prior experience on the first version of the bike, and also like Max, did a direct exchange from the Dorso 900 to the Suzuki 750.
Max was right: Suzuki had their work cut out for them. Add my bias towards grunty, angry V-Twins combined with crusty old man attitude to create a perfect storm for an anti-inline-four complaint session (and plan on some complaints about the new Softail for good measure).
Okay, so maybe it’s not all complaints… it’s just that the GSX-S is one of those bikes that doesn’t push many boundaries or take many chances. I don’t find it to be a particularly bold-looking bike, but I do really like the blue color of our tester.
First impressions reflected everything I have come to expect from Suzuki, which include right-on-the-money fit and finish, quality engineering, and a generally pleasant rider interface. No surprises here.
The display is well placed, and easy to read. My first order of business is usually to disable traction control, and this task is often a predictor for my experience with the rest of the interface of any motorcycle. Suzuki must read my reviews, because the menu could not be any simpler or user friendly—the whole bike is very straightforward.
Max mentioned the work Suzuki did making the bike new rider-friendly by adding a low speed takeoff assist. In the same vein, the GSX-S get their interesting “start request” feature. We motorcyclists no longer have to be bothered to hold the start button for an agonizing few seconds while the engine cranks—just one touch of the button and the computer controls starter engagement.
I’m on the fence about this feature. I’d never thought of holding the start button as an inconvenience, but it’s something that has been standard operating procedure on cars, so perhaps it’s inevitable.
I should start with a list of what really is right with this bike. The power plant is certainly much more civil and easy to live with than many of the track-bred inline machines I’ve ridden, and a remarkable improvement over the GSX-R in real world daily life. It’s not that peaky, particularly for a four. Fueling is refined and spot-on throughout the rev range, and it builds power in a smooth, deliberate fashion.
Despite the lack of adjustability, the suspension falls solidly into the “good enough” category. It never felt overwhelmed or inadequate, but it was never perfect. It’s certainly better-sorted than some of the competition in this category, and particularly at this price point.
I also share Max’s love of the brakes, in particular the rear. Often overlooked on sportier bikes, the rear on the GSX-S is well-sized, gives useful feedback, and overall stopping power is exemplary. I do think feedback and feel would be improved by braided lines, but that’s part of meeting this price point and easily rectified post-purchase. As a bonus, such modifications also serve to satisfy the need to begin improving motorcycles the moment we acquire them.
I mentioned the user-friendly interface earlier, but the settings it controls are also quite effective. Max’s simplification of the TC levels is accurate. I spent a lot of time with the TC off, but I found level one to be very helpful in gravel-strewn corner exits when I was trying to run down my friend on his DL650 (“The Words Between the Numbers” – February 2018).
I also want to give credit to the OEM tires. The Bridgestone S21s our GSX-S arrived with are some very nice tires, offering usable feedback, incredible traction, and a fantastic profile. In my quest to get the most out of the Suzuki, I made several trips up and down Mines Road, a notorious tire shredder, and the S21s survived, looking very well for the wear.
All right, time for my list of complaints. You knew this was coming, what with the GSX-S’s inline motor.
What the GSX-S is guilty of is a lack of commitment. The ergos are sort of upright, but not completely. The rider triangle is ⅔ sportbike, ⅓ standard-ish. It shares a lot of traits with a Craigslist-sourced streetfighter, for example, in the way the handlebars don’t really cooperate with the foot control or seat placement.
It’s a glass half full / half empty situation. For me, the GSX-S lacks utility in a way that unlike Max (and maybe Surj), I can’t stretch to the point of making a case for it as an only bike. My list of complaints is based on street riding, and would completely vanish on a race track—it’s the bike’s inner Gixxer that does it in for me.
Track-biased handling simply doesn’t translate to road manners, and I’m not used to something with handlebars requiring such effort to change directions. The bars do offer more leverage than clip-ons, but the neck angle and fork length are still sportbike. Discussion with Max tipped me off, so I was prepared to shift forward and hang off—not intuitive given the bars.
With traditional track-style body language, the GSX-S does handle well; it just doesn’t handle the way I want it to and I was never able to truly trust the bike. It does work well in sweeping, high-speed corners, but that’s a very small percentage of the roads I ride.
I am happy to praise the engine for the tune, but I still feel it straddles the line between standard and sport without giving the best of either. I’m not an engineer or an accountant, so I can’t hypothesize why, but the engine and transmission seem mismatched. The engine has a wide-enough powerband, but the gear ratios are closely spaced, resulting in a bike that isn’t incredibly rewarding to wind out or short shift. I’d really like to know what effect a final drive ratio change or complete transmission revision would have on the bike.
I’m trying not to be too hard on the GSX-S. It’s a solid, fun bike, and the component list and geometry make for a great foundation. Where it falls short for me is its lack of focus. I think it could be really good with gearing and ergonomic changes, but it’s competing against very tough company in the segment.
This story originally appeared in our March 2018 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.